Break the barrier: If ‘Age is just a number’, will you stop stereotyping the same, dear Bollywood?
22 tak padhai, 25 pe naukri, 26 pe chokri, 30 pe bachhe, 60 pe retirement, aur phir… maut ka intezaar… Dhat, aisi ghisi-piti life thodi jeena chahta hun main
Well, the character of Ranbir Kapoor aka Bunny in ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’ surely said something to ponder about, but no matter how much we loved the movie, it in itself failed to break the stereotype that this dialogue spoke of. We see the characters of Bunny, Naina, Adi and Avi reckless and carefree in the student years of their lives, close to somewhere around 18-20. Post eight years, when they are close to 26-28, we see Aditi getting married, and Aditya as someone who has given up in life and chose to revel his sorrows in drinking because he is tired of trying. On the other hand, we have a successful doctor Naina, and Bunny as a nomad travel journalist and photographer with huge money bags.
This gets you thinking. Firstly, who gives up at the age of 26? Don’t people have the right to feel critical about their career choices at that age? Aditya’s phase of building a great path ahead of him has just started, so just because he could not carve a path before the stereotypical age, is he just supposed wallow in self-pity and liquor about it? Well, we don’t think so. Secondly, another stereotype was the wedding of Aditi. While we agree that it was critical to the plot and quite convenient too, to bring together estranged friends at the wedding of best friend, the stereotype of ’26 pe chokri’ plays a strong part here. Naina and Bunny too are shown leading successful careers and a plush life at an age when most of us are confused as to whether we have even taken up the career that we want to pursue in future? After all, in real life not everybody gets a chance or freedom to dive headlong into unconventional paths.
There is another example. Before ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’, there was ‘Zindagi Naa Milegi Dobara’, another movie which we all loved, but there too, the age stereotype was stark. In one of the sequences, we get to know that the leads, Kabir, Imran and Arjun are ten years past their college, and into their lives. But by then, one of them is already getting married, and the other one is raking in millions, all by the age of somewhere in late twenties. However, we were more than happy when Kabir divulged his fear in the end that he was not ready to get married. It was a much needed breaking of a stereotype that just because it was his ‘age’ to get married, he should.
Though Bollywood actors are living examples of successful youngsters living on their own terms, and shunning the societal pressures by not giving in, somehow, the same lacks in movies. How many times have we been shown protagonists who are in their thirties, unmarried, successful and living life as it comes? Rarely, because our protagonists are young and fresh, mostly in their early twenties. Even if they make a mistake, it is shown that they have ample time to redeem the same, well within the societal alarm clock of expiry.
We ask, why? When we can have a Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra conquering the world in their early thirties, looking better than most of the twenty-year-olds, why can’t we have such protagonists? There are many Bollywood stars who were at the low phase of their careers with success and applaud coming in only when they touched the third decade of their lives. Shah Rukh Khan, the superstar, is the biggest example. Though he was slowly gaining popularity, but his key phase came in his thirties.
So Bollywood, when you have such real life role models to prove that success and emotions are not age sensitive, why portray the same in your movies? Why make plots that fit into the strata of society? Why not experiment with age which is just a number? Why can’t a person in thirties be a protagonist not suffering from some sort of crisis of societal pressure, and be happy and normal instead? And if there is a pressure, why can’t that be the one which is suffered by a normal human being, and not someone torturing one for hormonal crisis?
A brilliant example of the same can be the legendary sitcom ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’, which came in the nineties and showcased the lives of six individuals who were just ‘normal’. There was no societal pressure on them for marriage or career, no pressure to get something done within an age bracket, and slowly, they evolved in both personal and professional lives. We agree that it was a sitcom and not a movie, but then, the same imperfect characters can be shown in the movies too. A confused 29-year-old is not an alien, after all, and definitely not someone who cannot try for the age of trying is past, or even someone to be pitied for not being ‘settled’.
We want to see such stories and we want to see such characters. We want to see them evolve, but not be confined in a norm of stereotypes. Break the barrier of age Bollywood, let your characters make mistakes and not rush to redeem it in the duration of the movie. Let the plots and characters be imperfect, if that is what society deems them to be. You are the mirror of the society, and maybe one day, what you show as normal will be deemed normal in society, and not just the other way round.
Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable
Kapoor & Sons – Since 1921. The house proudly flaunted that to the world, nestled in the greens of Coonoor. No one knew the darkness that was inside, the demons that were individually dealt with. But then, isn’t every family like that?
Two years have passed by since this Shakun Batra-directorial, story of a dysfunctional family had come to our lives. However, amongst the various themes that tore apart the family and eventually brought it together, one that truly had the power to transform, was that of homosexuality.
Not many know, that the role played by Fawad Khan, that of family’s elder son, a successful author, was actually offered to many A-listers, who turned it down, eventually leading him to step into the shoes of Rahul. And it was, indeed, a very big step on his part. He was venturing out of his territory, a man who has such a huge female-fan following, and comes from a country with religion as its main running philosophy. He did the role and brought such conviction to it that we were forced to stand up and applaud, his courage, and the beauty with which his character was carved.
Since times immemorial, all our memories of gay characters on screen have been that of carelessly effeminate and unimportant roles, which are just there to add a comic element. The stereotype has been high to an extent that often the champions of the same channelise it and promote it, for it is wrapped in the shiny paper of presentation. The biggest example of this was ‘Dostana’, which was an amazing story of friendship, still used homosexuality as humour, as its backdrop. Ironically, it came from the same production house, though nearly eight years before that.
But ‘Kapoor & Sons’ begged to differ here. The character here was real, someone who was hiding himself, for the society, his family. There was surreality to the theme of homosexuality here, which had the power to jar us inside out; and that, it did.
Two scenes from the movie specifically hit me. First one is when Sunita (Ratna Patak Shah) finds out that her ideal elder son, whom she adores and is proud of, is not straight. The aftereffects of the same jolt you, because the reaction is just what an Indian mother gives, in any situation that is beyond her control; uncontrollable anger at the offspring, and then uncontrollable guilt, of blaming herself and her upbringing. The scene is filmed so beautifully, that your eyes sting. The way Fawad’s facade falls and his fear is marked across his face, which is then replaced by the anger of hiding himself for all those years, and mother’s dilemma and hurt, it all comes out in a naked and real manner.
Another sequence is when Rahul (Fawad Khan) comes back home after the showdown with his mother and the death of his father totally uproots whatever sanity his family possessed. He sits with his mother, with whom his last encounter was one of his coming out, and she asks, hesitatingly, about his partner. A subtle way of expressing acceptance, the way they hold hands, without saying anything, it stays with you.
It may not be one masterpiece, but ‘Kapoor & Sons’ will forever remain a favourite for finally breaking the mainstream stereotype of a gay man, in Bollywood. And for that, no matter how many bans, I will forever be waiting for Fawad Khan to come back, and give us more performances; with dare and conviction.
An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream
“I am a kid from the 90s but still can’t forget those days when, me-myself was not out and proud about my preferences. And inside my own sweet world would dance in front of the mirror on many songs, but majorly on ‘Hawa Hawai’ and ‘Main Teri Dushman, Dushman Tu Mera’. These songs were just not tunes for me, it made me feel exactly what I was; a QUEERby birth”.
The news of the legendary diva Sridevi being no more with us is still hard to believe, as she was part of my and every queer’s childhood memories. While in the late 90s my bunch of friends would idolise a star from the West as their gay icon, me being a full-fledged Bollywood fanatic was in love with Sridevi and she was a diva I used to worship (and will forever). Her golden costume and perfectly done makeup in ‘Hawa Hawai’ made me feel, “Yes! There is someone like me out there who loves bling and all things loud.” Her feather headgear in one of the songs from ‘Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja’, touched my drag Queen‘s soul. One of the lines from her song ‘Hawa Hawai’ which is ‘Soorat Hi Maine Aisi Paayi’ transported me into a world where I thought that there is someone narcissist just like me. Sridevi’s charm was on my mind and the feminine side in me just wanted to be a replica of her.
The gone actress has not only given a lot to the Indian cinema, but her sass and talent of naturally moulding herself into any character gave her an upper hand in whatever she used to do. When many gay men were struggling and were confused about their sexual orientation they found a connection to their on-going pain in Sridevi’s roles. Whether it was Sridevi as a meek Anju and ferocious Manju fighting for everything wrong in ‘ChaalBaaz’ (1989), Pooja’s mutiny against the everlasting societal conditions in ‘Lamhe’ (1991), Seema’s confidence-filled and fearless dance in the ‘Mr. India’ (1987) song ‘Hawa Hawaai’ or her role of a naagin (snake) coming out to the world about her dual identity in ‘Nagina’ (1986), Sri’s roles had a deep connection and were etched in every GAY man’s mind.
And how can one miss ‘Kate Nahin Kat Te’ song of Sridevi from ‘Mr. India’, where she owned the song and made every gay guy’s dream to dance on it once with his man. This particular song was wild, seductive and equal parts bold. Sridevi draped in a sky-blue coloured saree with a matching bindi and of course adding fuel to the fire was her dancing moves. Even at the end of the song, a fully wet in rainwater, Sridevi stretching herself on a pile of hay – ‘Tumne jo li angdayi hai’ – where the diva nibbles on straws with a drenched fire in her eyes, leaving Mr. Kapoor to chivalrously lie on a distant haystack.
While mostly when the film fraternity was in a zone where feminine men were used as a tool to add fun elements on the silver screen, Sridevi was a ray of hope for the LGBTQ community. She was like a powerful symbol for the QUEERS. Her role resonated each and every gays struggle, and also echoed their dysphoria into her characters. And with her, all the queer children surpassed the narrow-minded stereotypes which they were labelled with. Lastly, she might be gone, but the colourful rainbow universe she opened for all the fellow LGBTQ people remains there intact..
Hail the QUEEN! RIP Sridevi.